translated by J. D. Wisgo
June 21, 2021
grab a copy here or or through your local independent bookstore or library
Read more about Juza Unno and the translation of these stories here.
“Four Dimensional Man”
“The World in One Thousand Years”
“The Theory of Planetary Colonization”
“Mysterious Spatial Rift”
“The Living Intestine”
“The Last Broadcast”
“Adventures of the Dinosaur-Craft”
“Eighteen O’Clock Music Bath”
Let me begin by thanking J. D. Wisgo for bringing Juza Unno, the “founding father of Japanese science fiction,” into English. Because of his love of the genre and desire to give these stories the recognition they deserve, Anglophone readers now have access to some of the earliest Japanese tales of time travel, body horror, dystopia, and more.
Unno wrote his speculative stories from the 1920s through the 1940s, incorporating recent discoveries, theories, ideas, and inventions into his work. The colonization of other planets, android technology, time travel, and spatial rifts all served as the basis for his ideas about the future of humanity–whether marked by destruction or triumph. Often, Unno’s stories leave the reader feeling unmoored, adrift in a world that may be a dream, part of another dimension, or operating under unknown laws. In “Four Dimensional Man,” the narrator learns from a fortune teller that he sometimes becomes invisible because he is actually a creature from another dimension, accidentally poking into our own dimension here and there and taking on human form. The upending of reality happens once again in “Mysterious Spatial Rift,” where we never truly learn if the narrator is dreaming or being set up as a murderer.
With “The World in One Thousand Years,” Unno offers us a (by now) recognizable story about a cryogenically-frozen human waking up in the future and learning about the strange ways of its inhabitants. In Unno’s version, a scientist wakes up a thousand years in the future to find out that humanity has achieved a kind of immortality by replacing worn out organs with artificial ones. Conveyor-belt roads move people around and civilization has moved underground. And yet, as the scientist learns, rockets full of people are constantly being shot toward Venus for the purposes of recolonization, since an asteroid is due to hit the Earth. Mars is out of the question as an alternative because its inhabitants have declared war on humanity and have been shooting down as many Venus-bound rockets as they can.
One of the strangest stories in this collection, “The Living Intestine,” focuses on a mad scientist who takes that organ (recently removed from a deceased person) and experiments on it until it can move about freely on its own and even communicate. It’s pretty clear that some terrible consequences will come from this, but the story is nonetheless gripping.
If you really want a “mad scientist” story, look no further than the novella that concludes this collection: “Eighteen O’Clock Music Bath.” Here you get a brilliant but unstable scientist, highly-advanced androids, a corrupt and authoritarian government, and a populace driven mad by a mandated music regimen. And did I mention a Martian attack?
So check out Fast Forward Japan and enjoy.